celebrating 2'000 flights

Last week, I didn’t even realize that I completed my two thousand’th flight. Only when I updated my flight log book, I found out. I knew that I’m close, but that day I did lots of short speed flights, and one of them was the one.
For the first one thousand flights I needed only four years. I celebrated the event with a couple of friends and a big bottle of Champaign. It was in March 2006 from the Zugerberg, and I top-landed after twenty minutes.
Since I don’t fly as much as back then, the second thousand flights took eight years. I held up the tradition with the Champaign, though. Not on the 2000th flight, which I missed. Instead, we celebrated the 2005th flight today, after I did three tandem flights for Peter from the Rigi.
So here is a small statistic:

Gliders 61
tandem flights 265
speed flights 145
flights with competition gliders 540
countries 20
flying areas 164

Lauchernalp Speedflying

During our family ski holiday last week, I went one day to my favourite speedflying location: the Lauchernalp in the Lötschental.

Enjoy the footage:

Mountain Wagas

Every season has its virtues. What I like to do during the winter season is Wagas games, and the Fronalpstock is perfectly suited for that. Wagas are usually performed by flying close to sand dunes in the constant sea breeze, but powder snow is just as soft as sand. Instead of the constant sea breeze for soaring, we have some altitude difference in the mountains. Well, to be honest, the snow didn’t look particularly soft last Sunday, hence my Wagas games ended up being even more cautious.

Here are some pictures:

And a video:

Chiemsee Holiday

Like for most people around here, summer holidays for us usually means going south. And that is what we usually did in the past. This year, we wanted something new. The countries north of Switzerland were unexplored territory for us in regards of holiday destinations. We had ideas to go to the netherlands, Belgium or the Provence. The Nordic countries, we wanted to save for later, for a bigger trip when the boys grow older. After some brainstorming and discussing, we settled on the north sea cost of Germany. It would be a long drive, but manageable wit the current age of our boys. Then we found out that Levin is still allergic to fish. So we figured, that going to the sea might be not such a great idea. At least a lake we needed so that we could do some kayaking. Thus, the next best thing was the Bavarian sea: the Chiemsee.
We both didn’t know the area. The closest I was before, was Berchtesgaden, where I was competing in the 2005 German paragliding championship. Lots of people told us that it is a very nice area. So we looked forward to it.
The day we drove there was full of postponings. We left only in the middle of the afternoon, and so we didn’t make it in time to check into the camping. Consequently, we had to sleep the first night parking in the driveway, with all the luggage still in the camper.

Our first canoe excursion was not so pleasant, as Noah didn’t sleep enough, and so he complained all the time. The area was nice indeed with lots of activities for the kids. Definitely the highlight was the fairy tale theme park in Ruhpolding. It is a paradise for kids, full of ingenious playgrounds and stuff to explore. Neither the flyer nor the homepage can describe how good it is. If you’re in the area with children, you have to go there!

The Chiemsee is on the flat land but very close to the mountains. As it’s on the flat, the underground is all mud. I had heard of two nearby flying sites before: Hochfelln and Hochries. One day we wanted to go to the Hochries, but the easterly wind was not suited for flying there, and the one person chairlift was a no-go for Mirella anyway. So we went to K√∂ssen just after the Austrian border. I was very positively surprised of the flying area. It was well protected from the prevailing wind, and had enough room for many paragliders on takeoff and in the air. It reminded me a lot of Gstaad. After about an hour flying in the gentle thermals above takeoff, I decided it’s time to look after my family. Then I found out that landing next to the cablecar was the trickiest part of the flight. There were lots of small thermals close to the landing area.

One day we took the boat across the lake to have a ride with an old steam train. The boys were totally excited by the ancient technology. Next, we visited the castle on the main island. It was built for the fairy tail king Ludwig the second, who also built castle Neuschwanenstein. The castle on the Chiemsee island is a copy of the french Versailles palace, and although not finished, full of excessive splendour.

On the way home, we stopped in Munich to visit the BMW world with our two car fanatics. From every model sold in the BMW group, there was a piece in the exhibition. The kids could sit into all but the Rolls Royce. We had a hard time to get them out again.

BitCoin hits CHF 100 mark

Yesterday one BitCoin was, for the first time, worth more than CHF 100!

When I first learned about BitCoin in early 2011, CPU mining was still enabled in the default client. I mined for a few days, but it was probably already too late for the CPU. GPU’s took over before that. Last year, you needed FPGA’s to profitably mine, and now it’s shifting over to fully custom ASIC’s. I still sometimes mine with the GPU in the background while the Computer is running anyway, and I don’t use the GPU for anything else. It didn’t find a block so far. But for me that’s kind of like playing the lottery. The chances are slim, but if my computer could find the proper hash, that would cash in 25 BTC at the moment which would equate to CHF 2’500. And that slim chance starts over roughly every ten minutes.

There is a site somewhere on the net (I forgot the location) where you get free BTC. Back in those days, you got 0.05 BTC. That’s how I started off. This would now equate to CHF 5, but these days you get much less.

Since July 2011, I accept BitCoins as payment for the paraeasy.ch paragliding tandem flights. In fact only one guy payed that way so far. In October 2011 the flight cost 75 BTC at a rate of less than CHF 3 per BTC. If I still had those 75 BTC, they would be worth a whopping CHF 7’500 today.

I was thrilled last August, when it had an 80% increase within two weeks. But what happened this year was just insane. The price went from CHF 11 to CHF 110 in just three months. There were weeks with 10 to 15% increase every day.

The other day I walked past a local bank, and saw an advertisement for a defensive savings plan with an 8 year obligation where you get 1% profit. Of course it’s an unfair comparison. Noone knows what will happen next to the BTC value. It could drop any day for any number of reasons, or it could keep rising. I wouldn’t invest my savings so far.

There is a lot of speculation going on about the future value of BTC, and how certain events could influence that. Last week I read an interesting article about that. But there is also a lot of speculation about a bubble about to burst. Indeed the recent rise in value was so unnaturally fast, that it looks like a bubble. But such a bubble already bursted in 2011, and BTC recovered remarkably well.

Let’s not concentrate on the value itself. I think for BTC it would actually be better if the value was a bit more stable. The system was designed as a means to transfer money quick and easy. The main motivator was being able to transfer funds around the globe without waiting for a couple of days to arrive, and paying ridiculous transfer fees, as with current bank wire transfers, credit cards or paypal. That’s where BTC really shines. Of course it’s nice to see the value of your Coins rise, but I hope a possible bubble will not harm the system too much, and I strongly hope if that bubble should really burst, BTC will recover even stronger.

Update : additional links to good articles:

The bitcoin bubble and the future of currency

Are BitCoins the future?

The target value of BitCoin

BitCoin in the 3rd world

Skiweekend in Hasliberg

Last weekend I was in Hasliberg wih the ski club “Schneefreaks” from Steinhausen. They booked two full days of tandem flights. So I did ten flights with skis and two with snow board. The weather was almost perfect and so was the snow.

One legged speed flying

Today, I took a day off, to go to the Gemsstock for speed flying. It was almost as sunny as the forecast predicted. The cirrus became dense in the afternoon. Although the prevailing wind was north west, sometimes it blew down the slope, especially in the lower parts. But it was well within the comfort zone. The first few runs were from the galcier to the Gurschen (the middle station), along the glacier ski slope. Once the sun was higher, I switched to the Felsental (rock valley) which runs from the top all the way to Andermatt. That’s about 1’500 meters altitude difference and takes less than five minutes with the speed wing.

I did lots of touch n goes and some longer skiing sections along the different terrace steps. Then, all of a sudden in a straight section that didn’t look so bad, one ski jumped off my foot and stayed there in the deep snow. The next two terrace steps were not suited for landing, and I was too fast anyway. Walking up from farther down in the deep snow of the steep slopes seemed too exhausting. So I flew down to Andermatt, intending to try and fly to the place where I lost the ski. I was not sure how easy it would be to take off with only one ski. Turns out, I succeeded at the first try without any problem. No idea if every attempt would go so well. I looked for a good place where I could slope land in the tight valley, close to where I anticipated the ski. Again, the one foot landing went smooth. But then I walked around in the deep snow for more than half an hour searching for the missing ski. Walking one of these slopes uphill was indeed exhausting. So I took the one ski and descended to the next terrace step. When it was too steep, I sat on it, almost like a sledge. Once I found it, the rest of the descent was a lot easier…

Pilot 4 a day with a Jaguar driver

Every once in a while I get to do a pilot for a day. That’s our premium offer at paraeasy.ch, and admittedly the most fun to do. Depending on the weather we either do a cross country flight or multiple flights from various mountains. This time, the weather looked promising, but not good enough for cross country. So we set out to do the first flight early from the Rigi. Christoph, todays passenger came with a beautiful Jaguar E-Type, and he is also member of the Jaguar Driver’s Club. The residual cloud cover that should disappear quickly in the morning was lower and more durable than was predicted. So we spent more than an hour para-waiting in the fog. When the fog finally lifted, we had a nice flight with some weak thermals and a couple of tight circles down to Goldau.

After having lunch on a lakeview terrace in Lauerz, we drove with our two Jaguars to Brunnen. Then we headed to the Fronalpstock. From the main takeoff, we followed the ski slope down to Stoos, flying along the rock cliffs to the alp above Morschach. Next, I took course straight to Brunnen and with lots of excess altitude, we floated around and did some sightseeing. The smooth landing was on the Auslandschweizerplatz, one of my favorite landing zones, near to the lake front.

For the third flight I came up with something very special. With the steam boat we crossed the lake, and took the bus and cablecar to the Niederbauen. Like on the other mountains before, the view was marvelous. Sadly, the wind at takeoff had an unusually suboptimal direction, hence I was not certain if we really could cross the lake. We took off, and heading towards Seelisberg town I grew more and more confident that we would make it. Along the rock cliffs of the Seelisberg mountain we soared with the birds, making ground without loosing altitude. Above the lake, we did another photo session, and we even had enough altitude left to fly to the Auslandschweizerplatz.

Visited countries

A long time ago, I found a web service to visualize a map with all the countries you have visited. Now I finally figured out how to get it displayed in wordpress using the code-embed plugin.
Well, since we got kids, travelling is in hibernation mode, but we already have plans on where to go when the boys grow older.

So, here are the countries I visited:
The countries where I flew paraglider are red, the ones I only visited are blue.

Speedflying in Andermatt

Finally we have snow, good weather and I could take a day off. So, I went to Andermatt, my favorite ski resort. I had the intention to do speedflying, paragliding and skiing, all on the same day. It was wonderfull! But see for yourself …